More Information About Puno
As the capital of the Puno Province, it is the largest city in the southern altiplano and the 3rd most popular tourist destination in Peru, with many tourists stopping by after visiting Lima and Cusco and before continuing on towards Bolivia. Its wealth of natural and cultural treasures includes Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands of Uros, the Burial Towers of Sillustani and other pre-Inca cemeteries, and various colonial-era churches.
Its several hundred distinct folk dances and songs, most of them with costumed dancers representing characters from century-old legends, have earned it renown as the “Folkloric Capital of Peru”. You can experience this wealth of artistic and cultural expression yourself during the Feast of the Virgen of Candelaria in February, which in 2011 attracted more than 19,000 visitors
The region is predominantly rural, dedicating itself to agriculture and livestock, most notably of the llamas and alpacas which graze its plateaus and plains. Other activities include fishing and the production and sale of artisan works.
Geography of Puno
The city of Puno in southeastern Peru is one of the highest cities in the country, and also lies along the shore of the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca (3821m above sea level). Its inland side is encircled by foothills, with only about 2 miles of flat land between the hills and the shore, and urban development causing a gradual climb up the hillsides. The steep streets of some neighborhoods offer some amazing photo opportunities, as is the case with Kuntur Wasi viewpoint- a 600-step climb but the best view in Puno.
The flat, cold waters of massive Lake Titicaca sprawl between Bolivia and Peru. Dozens of species of birds, fish, and amphibians have been registered in the reserva, birds being the most numerous at more than 60 species, some of which are endangered. Among these the parihuanas, whose colors inspired the colors of the Peruvian flag, hallatas, gaviotas, keles, chullumpis and lequeleques stand out. The 41 floating islands of Uros are manmade from the lake`s most prevalent plant, the tortora reed, which also provides housing, sustenance, and transport for the Aymara-speaking Uros. Aside from the floating islands, visitors frequently explore the traditional islands of Amantani and Taquile, whose residents are the producers of textiles considered one of the highest-quality handicrafts in Peru and declared by UNESCO “masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.” In order to protect both the lake’s ecosystem and that of the high plateau region, Titicaca National Reserve was created in 1978.
In general the climate of Puno is cold and dry, receiving less than 700mm of rain. The annual rainy season occurs from December to April, although this can vary in years of flood or drought. Puno´s high altitude produces some extreme weather conditions. Temperatures vary widely, oscillating between an average maximum of 21°C and an average minimum of -15°C, with June to August being the coldest months of the year. Regardless of the temperature or time of year, you´ll want to bring sun block to avoid burning at such a high altitude.
History of Puno
10,000 years before Christ, nomadic aborigines journeyed the plateau hunting tarucas, alpacas, llamas, and vizcachas. Around 200-300AD Puno saw the rise of its oldest major urban center, Pucara, with its monumental pyramids. It began the process of plant and animal domestication that would lead to the rise of the famous Tiahuanaco civilization. When Tiahuanaco fell between the 12th and 13th centuries, various independent kingdoms formed to fill in the gap. One of the most notable was the Kollas, who left the famous Sillustani Burial Towers; mummies and golden artifacts from this site can be appreciated at the Carlos Dreyer mummies. Another notable kingdom was that of the Lupacas in Juli and Chucuito, from whom stemmed the Uros tribe with their famous floating islands. The Quechua-speaking Kollas took the north, the Aymara-speaking Lupacas the south.
It was under the reign of Inca Pachacutec that 200,000 warriors conquered the Kollas despite fierce resistance, taking the survivors and leaving only the children and elderly behind. The Inca then brought their own artists, chiefs, engineers, and those faithful to the empire, and settled them on Huajsapata hillside. Puno became a necessary thoroughfare along the route to the silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia.
The colonial period began in 1550, and in 1567 the silver mines of Laikakota were discovered, around which began to organize itself a population of miners and in whose space formed San Luis de Alba. Upon the arrival of the Viceroy Toledo in 1573, Puno had barely passed from village to town but in the following years it developed quickly. San Luis de Alba would remain the most important settlement through to the founding of Puno as a vice-royal city in 1668. Throughout the 17th century it would take on an important role as a point of passage between Arequipa, Cusco, La Paz, and Potosí. Upon the 1776 creation of the Viceroyalty of Río de Plata, the territory Puno was separated from the Viceroyalty of Peru, only to be returned 20 years later.
You can visit several churches built in Puno during 16th-18th centuries. The main Cathedral with its ornate mestizo-baroque façade was built in the 18th century, although a 1933 fire destroyed many of the interior’s invaluable paintings and carvings.
After Peru won its Independence from Spain in 1825, its agricultural and ranching activities developed notably, with Puno beginning the exportation of wools to England ten years later.
The 1800s saw a strengthening of the port of Puno as an economic focus, with the Yavarí arriving in 1871. Along with the Yapura, it was built in Great Britain, dismantled, and transported by boat, train, and finally crossed the Andes on the backs of mules and men before arriving at Lake Titicaca, where it can still be seen- the oldest single-propeller iron ship in the world, and still operational.